A trove of dusty plastic bags, each filled with powder
or herb. My grandmother held them up to the light,
shook them a little, mumbled strange syllables.
This one, she said. Then she boiled the kettle,
brewed a potion, gave me the steaming cup;
You're too skinny, this will help you grow strong.
I looked into the amber liquid and sniffed, the odor
unknown. Deerhorn, she said--I was charmed,
wee green antlers sprouting from a forest floor.
Then she placed her thumbs on her temples,
splaying her fingers, deerhorn. I froze, the first sip
still in my mouth. Swallow, she said sternly,
it won't hurt you. Obedience, bitterness, musk.
The line twists through the years and circles back.
A man beside me will grin and say, Swallow,
it won't hurt you. He will not understand
my laughter. He will rise and dress and stalk
from the room, leaving me alone still laughing,
the flavor of antlers a trickle in my gullet.
Fourth-Grade Science Project
Step One: Scoop up some dirt.
For years they've been plinking unheard on the roof,
rolling or bouncing down the shingles and landing
in the gutter, which holds them safe until the storm.
The soil around the gutterspout holds the run-off
from a thousand rains, each with a hundred secrets.
Step Two: Spread the dirt out on a sheet of paper. Place a strong
in a plastic bag.
Once, on seeing a man pull doves from silk,
my daughter cried out, see what he did, the magnetician!
I did not correct her. I know about positive, negative,
poles and fields, but magic makes more sense to me.
Step Three: Move the magnet in its plastic bag slowly over the
dirt. Any metallic
particles will stick to the magnet on the outside of the bag. Hold
carefully over another piece of paper. Open the bag and take out the
the particles will drop onto the paper.
We bump heads in our hurry to see. How tiny they are,
mere specks or motesówe breathe too hard, they fly off the paper.
So small, she says, her voice low and sad,
then it rises through the scale, the whole tones of hope:
Maybe the next ones will be bigger
Step Four: Examine the particles under a microscope. If the surface
sharp and jagged, the particles are bits of rusted metal. If, however,
are round and the surface pitted, then you are looking at a meteorite.
Rust, rust, and more rust. Scoop after scoop of dirt.
We wave the magnet chanting please please please,
this time let it be a meteorite. Dirt under our fingernails,
tracked through the house, gritty beneath my coffeecup.
Does that look pitted to you? she asks.
Pitted, jagged, I can't tell anymore.
A speck like the others. But under steel, over glass,
its roundness and pits are sure as the light in her eyes.
I got one, I got one, we clap together.
I surprise her with the strength of my hugóhow well
I know it, this effort of sifting through mountains
of dirt, ever hopeful of finding the flake from a star.